Thomas' retirement wrapped up Hall of Fame career

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

When Frank Thomas retired, he knew he was at peace with the decision.

Over 19 big league seasons, Thomas’ legendary bat left every big league pitcher longing for that day.

On Feb. 12, 2010, Thomas announced that he was officially calling it a career. He had not played at any level in 2009 but delayed the official announcement until he was ready.

“It took a while to get to this point,” the 41-year-old Thomas told the Associated Press during an event at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. “I had to get baseball out of my system before I made this announcement.

“I had one heck of a career. I’m proud of it.”

The seventh overall pick in the 1989 MLB Draft out of Auburn University following a season where he was voted the Southeastern Conference’s Most Valuable Player, Thomas burst on the scene in 1990 by hitting .330 in 60 games with the White Sox after debuting as their first baseman on Aug. 2. Then in 1991, Thomas hit .318 with 32 homers and 109 RBI while leading the majors in walks (138), on-base percentage (.453) and OPS (1.006).

It was the first of seven straight seasons for Thomas with at least 20 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 walks and a .300 batting average. No other player in history has ever matched those numbers in seven consecutive years.

“I was wowed every day by him in batting practice, the things he could do with a baseball,” said former White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak. “To watch this guy hit a ball to right field like a singles hitter would and then hit the next pitch 400 feet over the center field wall, that was just awesome. You’re not supposed to be able to do both like that.”

Thomas’ best seasons may have come in 1993 and 1994, when he won back-to-back American League Most Valuable Player Awards – becoming the sixth player in AL history to win consecutive MVPs. During the 1994 campaign, Thomas was hitting .353 with 38 home runs, 101 RBI, 106 runs scored and 109 walks through 113 games when the strike ended the season.

After his eighth season with 20 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 walks and a .300 batting average in 2000 – only Babe Ruth (12) and Lou Gehrig (9) ever had more – injuries began to take their toll on Thomas. He missed the majority of the White Sox’s games in 2001, 2004 and 2005.

He bounced back with 39 home runs and 114 RBI for the Athletics in 2006 after leaving the White Sox, finishing fourth in the AL MVP voting – his sixth season in the Top 5.

Thomas hit 26 home runs and drove in 95 runs as the Blue Jays’ designated hitter in 2007, then spent the 2008 season with Toronto and Oakland while appearing in just 71 games due to a right thigh injury that ended his career.

Thomas finished with 521 home runs, 1,704 RBI, 1,494 runs scored, 1,667 walks, a .301 batting average and a .419 on-base percentage. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year eligible in 2014.

“I’ve never understood why players say they don’t think of the Hall of Fame,” Thomas said early in his career. “I want it. I’m not embarrassed to say that. I want to be the best.”


Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series